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De Blasio, UFT leaders agree on $5 billion-plus contract deal

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew speaks as Mayor

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew speaks as Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that the city and the United Federation of Teachers have reached a preliminary agreement on a new contract at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Credit: Bryan Smith

The United Federation of Teachers would receive a 10 percent pay hike over seven years and retroactive raises of 4 percent for 2009 and 2010 under what Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday hailed as a "landmark" deal with the union.

The tentative contract -- projected to cost more than $5 billion -- marks the potential end of years of labor stalemate under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It would set the framework for negotiations on the city's other 150-plus open contracts through so-called pattern bargaining. All city labor contracts expired under Bloomberg.

The agreement's cost would be partly offset by $1.3 billion in savings on health care costs for UFT members, De Blasio said, though officials could not detail exactly how those savings would be achieved. It also provides incentives to retain high-performing teachers, allow more flexible work rules for "innovation" in up to 200 schools and set aside teachers' time for more parent involvement.

"We have reached a landmark agreement for our schoolteachers, but first and foremost a landmark agreement for our children and families," de Blasio said at a City Hall news conference with UFT president Michael Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The UFT, which represents 75,000 teachers and 110,000 employees overall, has been without a contract since 2009. Current teacher pay ranges from about $45,000 to $100,000.

"This is a mayor who actually respects the workforce," Mulgrew said when asked to compare negotiating with de Blasio and Bloomberg.

The tentative nine-year deal -- which begins retroactively on Nov. 1, 2009, and expires on Oct. 31, 2018 -- must be ratified by rank-and-file members and the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of all public-sector unions.

UFT members would receive their retroactive raises in increments between 2015 and 2020, and teachers also would get a $1,000 cash bonus. They would get a 1 percent pay hike for 2013, 2014 and 2015 and then 1.5 percent, 2.5 percent and 3 percent for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The final two years of retroactive raise payouts are not included in the $5 billion-plus cost estimate, officials said.

The deal calls for the creation of 200 schools "for innovation" permitted to set longer school days or otherwise break with union rules.

Additionally, the agreement would establish a "career ladder" with three new positions attached to between $7,000 and $20,000 in annual extra compensation to help retain high-performing teachers -- and would expedite discharge proceedings for teachers twice judged by their principals to be unsatisfactory. It would streamline an evaluation process much criticized by teachers.

Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission watchdog group, described the deal as a mixed bag and expressed concern about the health care cost savings.

"This savings plan where a committee is going to work together and decide on what savings are? You know, it sounds great, but will the savings actually come through?" she said.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, said: "The health part sounds squishy."

Separately, the Public Employment Relations Board is to appoint a mediator to help adjudicate the contract between the union representing the city's rank-and-file police officers, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and the city.

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